Sex is part of life and can be part of life after a diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis. Most patients are reluctant to talk about this topic with their doctor. And Dr. Ruth does not offer much guidance for patients with lung disease. I wrote on this topic last in 2015 and it is time to revisit this issue.
Why Is Sex Important for Patients with Pulmonary Fibrosis?
Sex is an important part of life for most people. A healthy sex life is part of a healthy relationship. Having pulmonary fibrosis requires you to make compromises and sacrifices. You can no longer run up a hill. You can’t move as quickly or do as much. You may not be able to go line dancing or go on hikes with your partner. Both you and your partner have to make sacrifices in acknowledging your declining health. Don’t throw in the towel on your sex life just because you have pulmonary fibrosis. Work to find ways to enjoy your sex life.
Mild pulmonary fibrosis should not have much impact on your sex life. Your energy level may be mildly reduced and you may cough or have shortness of breath with vigorous exertion. Unless your sex life involves acrobatics or a great deal of calisthenics, your routine should be minimally affected.
As pulmonary fibrosis progresses, shortness of breath increases and exercise capacity declines. You may notice that sex starts to cause shortness of breath. This is a good time to talk to your partner about some accommodations. Don’t be shy. Your partner has no doubt noticed that you are breathing more heavily than usual. They are probably worried about you. Talk about it. Have your partner do more of the work. Find positions that are less strenuous.
With advanced pulmonary fibrosis most patients require oxygen. This does not have to be a barrier to sex. Turn your oxygen up (just as you would if you were walking into the grocery store or the doctor’s office). Let your partner do most of the work.
After 50 years of marriage, sex has less of an impact on your heart rate and breathing than does sex with a new partner. So you can expect your breathing to be more affected if you are with a new partner. Listen to your body. If you are feeling very short of breath, relax and take a break. There is no penalty for increasing the oxygen flow on your concentrator.
Erectile Dysfunction Medications & Pulmonary Fibrosis
Erectile dysfunction medications are generally safe for patients with pulmonary fibrosis. Medications like sildenafil or Tadalafil (Viagra or Cialis) are actually sometimes used to treat pulmonary hypertension in patients with pulmonary fibrosis. Check with your doctor to make sure there are no drug interactions. If you are taking nitroglycerin or nitrates then you need to avoid these erectile dysfunction medications.